Friday, August 7, 2015

Body and soul

On Day 5, I feel somewhat human.

Until now I've been staying close to home, wearing a groove in the pavement between the apartment and the office. It's at most ~300 meters, 100 as the crow flies.

In Paris, the neighborhood streets radiate like bicycle spokes from a central plaza, the local hub. It's the classic design. In this case, the plaza was the Place d'Estienne d'Orves. A real mouthful!  I managed to avoid invoking its name. And chaotic! Its crazy traffic and busy intersections were something to avoid; I traversed it only when strictly necessary.

Luckily, crossing the Place d'Estienne d'Orves was not required to get to work. From the door of the building where I was staying, it was a simple route.

You crossed the street and tacked left to the corner near the Bistro des Deux Theatres, skirted the side of the Ecole des Garcons, curving behind the Eglise de la Trinite. Then you crossed on the diagonal, tacking left on Rue Clichy toward the bistro Vert Tulip (watch the cars), turning hard right again onto Rue de Londres.

Voila!

Parisians have their well-defined routes. I felt validated on the way to and from the office, observing other humans doing the same crazy zigzag tango. They walked quickly and purposefully, head down, in that way, giving it a certain grace. Sometimes I recognized a fellow traveler. Bon!

Having mastered the routine, and now (mostly) sleeping at night, it was time to venture forth. I felt up to it. Feeling adult, I left work at 6:30, walked to the Metro, bought a token, got on a train. I texted my niece Laura. That place, the restaurant we went to in 2007 with the group. You know the one. Is this it?

A text came back: mmm maybe. Then, bless her heart, a few minutes later she found the real place. Chez Fernand. It was early; they fit me in. One for dinner? No problem.

Chez Fernand is easy to mistake for a classic French bistro. Visually, it's a dead ringer: ground floor with vaulted ceilings, red-checked tablecloths, convivial ambiance. The menu is in French (English on the flip side). The food is fresh, stylish, delicious.

Yet just like last time, as I look around the dining room almost no one is actually French. The service is so accommodating, so warm, that foreigners seek it out. Stumble with your French? No problem, we speak English. Need to know if there's flour in the sauce? No problem, we're savvy to gluten-free.

You can see why this is the place I chose for my first real night out.

I order the beef and a glass of Crozes-Hermitage (in French). If I had failed, used the wrong verb form or tense or something, it would have been OK, no shame.

They bring the food; marvelous. All week I've been dining chez work and the simple places around the Place d'Estienne d'Orves. At home I would be raving. Now all I have to do is sit here and eat solo gracefully, pretending the world is my oyster.

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